The Self-Made Man: Benjamin John Coleman


I hope I’ve made it clear to TSB’s readers that entrepreneurs can excel in most fields and industries. Yes, the current entrepreneur stereotype is a young, Polo-shirted white guy who dropped out of an Ivy League school to do computer magic, but that’s not the only way to hustle oneself into success.

benagamiTake Benjamin John Coleman, for example. He’s not famous, exactly, but he is a self-starter who turned his origami paper folding hobby into a business. Make no mistake, crafts are a big industry (why else would Etsy and Pinterest even exist?) and Coleman’s experience with the crappy modern economy led him to take a chance and make his own way in the world.

In his bio, Coleman describes himself as “a former high school math teacher and computer entrepreneur,” and describes his education as “highly technical; engineering, mathematics, and economics.” He doesn’t go into much more detail about his previous career history, but he mentioned to Open Forum that he was on unemployment when the recession hit and wasn’t getting anywhere with traditional job-hunting methods.

That in itself is an interesting and welcome take on entrepreneurship: how do you go about it when you aren’t in your early twenties? A lot of dot-com moguls took the leap into working for themselves when they were young, but that’s much harder to do for mid-life professionals who are forced by circumstance to change career paths.

Coleman tried selling origami Bonsai plant sculptures for a while, but that didn’t take, so he wrote a book about the art. Titled Origami Bonsai, it was published in 2010 and reprinted the following year, and Coleman took that as a sign to keep going.

Origami Bonsai is now a business through which Coleman sells his books—he’s written three more since the first one—and other origami accessories, including the world’s first mass produced origami flower. He also publishes a free online magazine on the subject.

Not too bad for a guy who couldn’t pay his rent before his first book came out, eh? I mean, that in and of itself is a pretty scary undertaking, let alone his plan to use it as a launching pad for starting his own business.

I’ll leave you with the promotional video for Benjamin John Coleman’s first book, which has all the iMovie editing wipes and amateurish charm you’d expect. He really does make some nice sculptures, though.

About Dave Kiefaber

Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at

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